HISTORY 124A Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Gibson Girl, Nellie Bly, Sewing

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5 Oct 2016
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Lecture 18: Women at Work, at Play, and at Home
Announcements and Recap
MIDQUIZ: Friday, Oct. 14th in class
oBring blue or green books and pen
oFormat: Essay question with a few fill-in-the-blank or multiple
choice questions
oChanges in economy affect changes in freedom (?)
Essay 1 Returned:
oBy Monday, October 17th
No class:
oWednesday November 23rd
oFriday November 25th
The Cult of True Womanhood
There was an idea that women in a proper Victorian family should
not work and should stay home and take care of the children
Woman’s true place was by the fireside
Her most fitting task was to tend to the needs of her family
It was through your children that you affect the direction of society
Home was the safest place for the woman, under the protection of
their brothers, fathers, husbands
Staying home was what guaranteed a woman’s sexual purity
Victorians would put a skirt around the piano so the legs wouldn’t
be seen
If you talked about legs, it would be bad!
Women were in a sealed environment, not healthy!
Innocence and purity and innocence were a must!
The “New Woman” of the 1890s was often envisioned as the
“Gibson Girl” based on drawing by Charles Dana Gibson. The New
Woman was a somewhat more active and sociable variant of
Victorian home.
She might ride a bicycle or play an instrument.
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In 1890 there were around 1 million women working outside the
home
By 1910, there were 8 million wage-earning women.
Why women should not work, according to Victorians:
oWorking women cant take care of their kids as well, therefore
working was seen as an attack by women on the home and
institution of marriage
oWomen don’t need to work and only did so to earn fancy
wardrobes
oWomen brought down the wages of men
Working Women
Well what if you were a poor immigrant who couldn’t afford to have
this nice house and hang out in your parlor all day? What was your
status in society if you were a working woman?
Garment factories; garment workers were the worst of the worst
even though it was hard work. You certainly weren’t a good
woman.
You could be a dress-maker, even better if you had a shop!
Conditions of these factories were so bad that women were
encouraged to get married as soon as possible to stop working.
oSometimes the guy would not be able to support them.
These women were not working for feminism, they were working
because they needed to.
“I noticed some other peculiar thing on my trip to and from the
factory. I noticed that men were much quicker to offer their places
to the working-girls on the cars than they were to offer them to
well-dressed women…” –Nellie Bly
The next best thing from a garment worker would be a telephone
operator
oSince it was a new technology, it wasn’t thought of as a
gendered work
oTelephones became more and more widespread.
oTelephone operators have to switch hundreds of calls an hour,
connecting plugs back and forth.
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